FROM THE LISTENING HILLS

Twelve nifty tales, quite possibly the last from the drawer of L’Amour (1908–88), as collected and edited by son Beau L’Amour, who is also gathering material for a L’Amour biography.

These entries, three never before published, include the first and last that L’Amour wrote. Kickoff is the masterful “Sand Trap,” a fearless melodrama stained with human feeling: A man wakes up on a kitchen floor, no idea how he got there, his scalp split to the bone; he can barely move, there’s a dead man beside him, and the house is on fire—and quickly L’Amour rouses sympathy for this trapped soul. How’s that for an opener? “Anything for a Pal,” L’Amour’s virgin effort at storytelling, shows great skill at handling clichés as it tells of Tony Kinsella, torpedo for a mob boss, who has to kill a witness to save his boss from the chair. To measure L’Amour’s growth from this clean-limbed but banal work to each of the other stories should cheer any tyro writer hoping to learn. The title story, one of the longer tales here, finds L’Amour sinking into a blaze of plotting as the Tremayne family rebuffs death threats and false arrests and goes into hiding from various posses. The story carves a large arc and is especially brilliant in the romance between the storyteller, to whom a woman is as rare and strange a creature as something from the depths of the sea, and the girl he marries but then must leave, though she’s pregnant. L’Amour’s very last story, “The Moon of the Trees Broken by Snow,” finds him, like Homer in the Odyssey, moving from realism to abstraction and magic. In some dateless period in the past, a 12-year-old boy, now head of the family, leads the family from their drought-stricken homeland to a new land that he’s led to by a large star in the southern sky. We’ll say no more.

Fans, rejoice.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-553-80328-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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